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Three leadership skills all managers need Add to ...

The question

Can offer any advice as to how to get into a management position without having any of the experience that companies demand?

I am in sales and I exceed my target every month by 100 per cent. While I am 30, my typical managers are between 21 and 23 years of age. I have sold real estate in the past and been in the top 1 per cent of realtors across Canada throughout my career.

The answer

You seem to be someone who set goals for themselves and doesn’t just achieve them, but overachieves them. Congratulations to you! I’m sure if you set your mind to moving into a management position, you will achieve this too. With that said, I would recommend that your first step is to look at your motivations for wanting to make this move. Is it part of your career advancement plan or is it because you are working with managers who are younger than you and you are feeling some pangs of inadequacy? When contemplating this question, tap into how you feel when you win a sales deal or overachieve your sales quotas – does that bring you a high level of fulfilment and personal satisfaction? Does the anticipation of closing a sale make you jump out of bed in the morning excited to get started? If the answer is yes, stay in sales. It’s the right career path for you. Look within this path for new challenges and endeavours.

If a management position is really intriguing you, start this new journey by reflecting on the various managers you have worked with. Write down some of the qualities that you felt made them shine as a manager, and some of the qualities that made them unsuccessful. Assess these qualities in terms of your abilities and personality. Would you potentially fall into the same traps and errors as they did when they were trying to lead their team members or would you have the resources and sense to handle things differently?

Take an honest look at your current leadership qualities. It is the natural embodiment of these types of qualities that will help you move into a managerial role. You don’t have to have a manager’s job to act in a managerial fashion. Think of some situations where you exhibited leadership qualities. Write these down and assess how well you did. Assess how these qualities would be necessary in a full-time managerial role. While there is a vast array of qualities important to being a manager, here are a few of the ones I feel are vital:

Team player – it is the manager’s job to evoke the team spirit in all the team members. For a team to feel motivated at work, it is important for a manager to understand their expectations, recognize their strengths and understand where they lack. Strong managers encourage their team members to share thoughts and ideas, participate in the rewards gained and learn from the failures. Managers must put the team’s success before their own personal success.

Sharing of knowledge and transferring of skills – a manager’s aim should not just be on the achievement of monthly, quarterly or annual results. They should also be focused on the growth of their staff. Understanding and supporting the professional goals of your work force is an important step in being a strong manager. With this insight, you will also bring a higher level of engagement to your team and the workplace.

Communication – communication skills are always essential, but in my opinion, they are vital to the managerial role. The manager is the ultimate “middleman.” He communicates with subordinates, peers, superiors and customers or suppliers on a regular basis. His ability to communicate effectively is essential to ensure the flow of information to all parties. His communication skills play a strong determining factor on the level of employee engagement, customer relationships and the interactions between internal business departments. It is not only important to know what to say but how to say it. Communications from a manager must take into consideration the emotional impact of the words. Not considering this can be the greatest downfall of a manager both to the team he leads and to the company’s overall business.

Once you have spent time assessing your managerial skills, speak to friends, family members and especially co-workers to get honest feedback about your behaviours and skills. Use this to compare to your self-evaluation. Sometimes the perceptions we have of ourselves are not necessarily how others see us. If you are truly interested in moving into a management position, this feedback will play a valuable role. Your openness to accepting feedback is another indicator of your suitability to this new role. In my opinion, if you are not willing to accept honest assessments of yourself from others, continue in your sales position. Strong managers are not only willing to provide feedback to staff to enhance their growth but are also willing to accept feedback from others to help them grow. It’s walking the talk!

Speak to other people you know who are in managerial positions and ask them how they got their jobs and what qualities and skills they feel are essential to have in order to gain employment at this level. You may find out that you need additional training to learn specific skills or need mentoring to change some behaviours. Keep an open mind about where you need to grow and what has stopped you from being promoted to a managerial position throughout your career.

Finally I think the most important aspect of getting a management position without experience is believing that you can do it. Setting self-imposed limitations can be a huge hurdle to get over. Based on your sales achievements, it doesn’t seem like you are apt to do this, so if this is the brass ring you want to grab, do whatever it takes to stretch yourself and make it happen.

Cindy Gordon is the president of Culture Shock Coaching in Toronto.

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